CLEMSON — Just more than one year ago, the summer of 2013 saw a flood wipe away most of the South Carolina Botanical Garden’s nature trails and bridges. But thanks largely to Clemson University architecture and landscape architecture students, who spent much of the past nine months rebuilding the bridges, trails and signage, the Garden now is fully operational and back to normal.

Students rebuilt this bridge at the Garden.

Students rebuilt this bridge at the Garden.

“They all did a tremendous job, from the wide range of students at Clemson to all the great volunteers” said John Bodiford, garden manager and senior horticulturist of the Botanical Garden at Clemson. “Those architecture students did a great job of designing and building the bridges; we could not have done it without them. This project is a testament to the devotion, passion and work ethic of the Clemson community in coming to the aid of the South Carolina Botanical Garden.”

Where the Botanical Garden — and much of the surrounding area — was on July 13, 2013, is under water. Rain fell on the area virtually every day after mid-June. In the 10 days prior to the 13th of July, Clemson received more than 20 inches of rain. On the night of July 12th, into the morning of the 13th, the gardens saw an additional eight inches of rain.

That was enough to open the floodgates, so to speak, specifically on the garden’s Duck Pond, which unleashed more than 100 million gallons of water on the Hunt Cabin and the nature trails just beyond it.

“The water was just rushing down, and taking everything with it,” said architecture student William Craig, a lead member of the team of students that helped to rebuild the garden. “It was a chain reaction of flooding all the way down the creek. All the top soil was moved, trails were lost and all bridges but one were structurally compromised.”

With so much damage and repair costs estimated to be more than six figures, Patrick McMillan, director of the Garden, turned to Clemson’s School of Architecture, awarding a contract to its architecture studio course to build new bridges. Clemson’s students and professors took it from there, operating first like an outside architectural firm, then as construction managers and workers as the project took shape.

Undergraduate and graduate architecture and landscape architecture students worked together to build eight new bridges that are interwoven, modular, customized and prefabricated trusses of steel. They also created new signage and on-site maps to help visitors find their way through the Garden and trails.

This sign and sculpture commemorate the 2013 flood.

This sign and sculpture commemorate the 2013 flood.

In building the eight new bridges — seven of which are in the Garden; one is in expectation of a future bridge — students constructed 43 modular spans of bridge totaling 172 feet long with 38 precast concrete foundation systems, 1,032 linear feet of angle sections of steel, 840 square feet of fiberglass grating, 344 custom and truss members, 96 custom steel joists, 2,752 linear feet of half-inch steel rod for the railing, 344 linear feet of two-by-four treated wood for the foot rails and 344 linear feet of two-by-six treated wood for the handrail. The new signage for the trails comprises 160 square feet of sheet steel, 4,000 pounds of concrete foundations and an interactive sculptural art piece that memorializes and replicates the fury of the storm.

Those who worked on the project include architecture professor Daniel Harding and landscape architecture professor Paul Russell; graduate architecture students William Craig (Lexington), Brittany Cohen (Buffalo, New York), Nick Irmen (Maumee, Ohio), Naseem Keshmirian (Charleston), Jared Lee (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), Trey Meyer (Jewell, Ohio), Nicole Nguyen (Nashville, Tennessee), Adam Windham (Manning); and fifth-year landscape architecture students Nick Allport (Utah), Katie Fronek (Seneca), Brennan Hansley (Anderson), Joshua Robbins (Irmo) and Cody Zanni (Rochester, New York).

“We couldn’t get any better experience than this,” said Craig. “We operated this project just like an actual architecture firm would and that is what our thinking was all along: that it would be not just a class project, but something run like an architecture firm.

“For me, it’s been amazing to see that I can, with other people, achieve something really artful and really connected with all these natural systems and to do it all at a high degree of craftsmanship,” he said. “Being able to take that forward in the future with any kind of architectural project is powerful. I hope I can achieve this same level of thought and craftsmanship in every project I work on.”


Clemson University
Ranked No. 21 among national public universities, Clemson University is a major, land-grant, science- and engineering-oriented research university that maintains a strong commitment to teaching and student success. Clemson is an inclusive, student-centered community characterized by high academic standards, a culture of collaboration, school spirit and a competitive drive to excel.

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